Penn College preparing genial cyberwarrior for battles to come

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Growing up less than 20 miles from main campus, Adam E. Reinard was well acquainted with Pennsylvania College of Technology as a regional resource featuring such highly regarded majors as plastics and nursing … but without one that immediately appealed to him.

With proven aptitude in math and science, and the strong desire to help people through the development of life-saving medications, Reinard, of Hughesville, instead enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh with hopes of becoming a research pharmacist.

Time went on and his objective changed, as did his back-up plan to be a chemistry teacher. After working for a couple of years to narrow his career focus and resolve to jump-start his postsecondary education, he eventually found that his “little hometown college” offered the opportunity to make a big impact.

“Everything just clicked” for Reinard, whose sole academic exposure to a keyboard was as a typing student at Hughesville High School, but who nonetheless had a hobbyist’s fascination with how computers work.

Now, he is seeking a bachelor’s degree in information assurance and cybersecurity, learning the skills that could cure a societal scourge as prevalent as any pathogen.

“The more I learn, the scarier things seem,” he said, alluding to the everyday exposure of people’s personal information to online predation. “And the more fascinating everything is.”

Reinard and his colleagues represent the white hats in a dark-hearted expanse where subterfuge, malice and disturbance are constants, and — from his firsthand interaction with those who plow that field — he knows that cybersecurity professionals represent a defense that is as formidable as it is collaborative.

“It’s a very welcoming atmosphere, with a lot of discussion and camaraderie,” he said. “They’re always coming up with new ways to protect each other.”

As challenging as that awesome responsibility is, Reinard said communication skills are also vitally important; security personnel need to convey the rationale behind their stealthy solutions.

“That’s especially handy when a client asks, ‘Why am I paying you all this money when nothing has happened for three years?’ And you have to explain that that’s the reason nothing has happened!”

So fully has Reinard embraced his career reboot, he serves as president of the Information Security Association (ISA) and is a technical support analyst on the computer help desk.

ISA, among the many Penn College organizations that give students a window on their chosen professions, stresses the importance of security throughout the information technology curriculum within the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies.

By sharing knowledge with study groups, learning from industry speakers, and attending conferences and competitions, members gain the techniques and tools to be perceptive security professionals.

“He’s helped manage the group through several trips to conferences and has been invaluable to faculty in making sure the planning and event go very smoothly,” said Jacob R. Miller, an associate professor and department head for computer science. “On one of our recent trips, a student was injured and Adam (among several others) sacrificed his time to get the student the assistance she needed. He and the other students deserve significant praise for their helpfulness.”

Among those out-of-classroom activities is ShmooCon, a conference at which Reinard and his classmates joined a national conversation on relevant topics — and engaged in one of the more popular features of such get-togethers.

“People at these events just love to idly pick locks,” he said. “Literally.” (Physically “hacking” a device that is meant to provide peace of mind is not all that different from exploiting vulnerabilities in the digital world, it would seem.)

The gathering of ISA students also offered an accommodating interaction with professionals: It was through his association contacts that Reinard secured a summer internship with Kratos Defense and Security Solutions in Fairfax, Virginia.

In the meantime, he shares his ever-growing knowledge with community and campus alike.

“Adam has been working with the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to upgrade its IT systems,” noted Miller, who is a member of the local SPCA’s board of directors. “He has been working on upgrading their server and evaluating their IT systems for possible migration to cloud-based services for some of their needs.”

Reinard said installing and configuring new Linux equipment is an overdue improvement over a 10-year-old Windows Small Business Server.

“There were a lot of security issues that needed to be addressed, as the agency deals with a lot of clients’ personally identifiable information,” he said. “Jake and I sat down and mapped out the network, piece by piece, improving wherever we could.”

Today, the nonprofit has a credibly delivered upgrade at a fraction of the cost, as well as the added capability of remote access for maintenance and other tasks. Reinard is also working with faculty member Alicia McNett on the rollout of a new donor-management application that the information technology instructor is writing for the agency.

“Adam has also been working with our faculty for about the past year helping to ‘remodel’ our information security lab,” Miller said. “We haven’t changed the physical layout of the lab, but we have reinstalled all the servers and replaced all the workstations.”

While faculty members David A. Becker and Daniel W. Yoas have been upgrading the servers and network equipment, Miller said Reinard was principally responsible for redoing all the workstations and the network wiring to them.

All while maintaining a connection to his peers.

“Adam is an absolute joy to have in class. He keeps a positive attitude, appears to enjoy learning about all things IT, and likes a challenge. He is a superb student,” instructor McNett said. “I noticed in my classes that he tended to be the student that other students went to when they ran into difficulties with course materials. He always took the time to help them understand the material better and was always lighthearted and respectful when answering their questions.”

Whether the discussion turns to malware analysis, social engineering or the subversive existence of root kits, Reinard embraces the chance to continually enhance his crimefighting repertoire. With an interest in computer forensics and a desire to amass as many industry credentials and certifications as he can, his goal has remained unchanged even if his focus hasn’t.

“I’m never going to stop learning," he said.

For more about Penn College’s information technology majors, visit www.pct.edu/it.

For information about the School of Industrial, Engineering & Computing Technologies, visit www.pct.edu/icet or call 570-327-4520.

For more about the college, a national leader in applied technology education, visit www.pct.edu, email admissions@pct.edu or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Last Updated April 19, 2018